What do bats eat?

Bats are the most significant predators of night-flying insects. There are at least 40 different kinds of bats in the U.S. that eat nothing but insects.  A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adult human’s thumb, can eat 4 to 8 grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night. Although this may not sound like much, it adds up—the loss of the one million bats in the Northeast has probably resulted in between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects no longer being eaten each year by bats.

Bats locate each insect by echolocation, then they trap it with their wing or tail membranes and reach down to take the insect into their mouth. This action, as well as the chase, results in the erratic flight most people are familiar with when they observe bats feeding in the late evening or around lights at night.

Other species of bats eat many different things, including fruit, nectar, and pollen. Bats are important pollinators as they fly from plant to plant in search of food. In the southwestern deserts of North America, bats are the key pollinators of saguaro and organ pipe cactus. Tequila is made from the agave plant, which is pollinated by bats.

Learn more at our North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) website.

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Where do bats live?

Bats can be found in almost all parts of the world and in most regions of the United States. In general, bats seek out a variety of daytime retreats such as caves, rock crevices, old buildings, bridges, mines, and trees. Different species require different roost sites. Some species, such as the Mexican free-tailed and gray bats live in large...

Why are bats important?

By eating insects, bats save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control. Some studies have estimated that service to be worth over $3.7 billion per year, and possibly as much as $53 billion. This value does not, however, take into account the volume of insects eaten by bats in forest ecosystems and the degree to which that...

Are bats dangerous? 

All healthy bats try to avoid humans by taking flight and are not purposely aggressive. Most bats are about the size of a mouse and use their small teeth and weak jaws to grind up insects. You should avoid handling bats because several species, such as the hoary and big brown bats, have large teeth that can puncture skin if they are handled...

Do vampire bats really exist?

Yes, but not in most of the United States. Of the three species of vampire bats in North America, only a single specimen has been recorded for the United States in extreme southwest Texas. Vampire bats do not suck blood--they make a small incision with their sharp front teeth and lap up the blood with their tongue. Vampire bats in Mexico and South...

Are bats blind? 

No, bats are not blind. Bats have small eyes with very sensitive vision, which helps them see in conditions we might consider pitch black. They don’t have the sharp and colorful vision humans have, but they don’t need that. Think of bat vision as similar to a dark-adapted Mr. Magoo (a cartoon character with very poor vision). Learn more at the...

How are bats affected by wind turbines?

Dead bats are found beneath wind turbines all over the world. It’s estimated that tens to hundreds of thousands die at wind turbines each year in North America alone. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear why this is happening. It’s possible that wind turbines interfere with seasonal migration and mating patterns in some species of bats. More than...

What species of bats are affected by White-nose Syndrome?

White-nose Syndrome mostly affects hibernating bats. More than half of the 47 bat species living in the United States and Canada hibernate to survive the winter. Eleven bat species, including three endangered species and one proposed species, are already affected by White-nose Syndrome or exposed to the causative fungus, Pseudogymnoascus...

What should I do if I find dead or dying bats, or if I observe bats with signs of White-nose Syndrome?

If you find a dead or dying bat: Contact your state wildlife agency, file an electronic report in those states that offer this service, e-mail U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in your area, or contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife Service field office to report your potential White-nose Syndrome (WNS) observations. It is important to...

What is White-nose Syndrome?

White-nose syndrome is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in at least 29 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus,...
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Date published: October 23, 2017

Trick or Treat? The Frightening Threats to Bats

Written by Marisa Lubeck and Ethan Alpern

Date published: March 31, 2011

Bats Worth Billions to Agriculture: Pest-control Services at Risk

Pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats in the United States likely save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year, and yet insectivorous bats are among the most overlooked economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America, according to an analysis published in this week’s Science magazine Policy Forum. 

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Southeastern Bat with P. destructans Fungus
December 31, 2017

Southeastern Bat with P. destructans Fungus

This southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius) from Alabama shows signs of infection from the Pseudogymnoascus destructans fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center later confirmed white-nose syndrome in this animal, marking the first time that WNS was found in a southeastern bat. As of June 2017, the species joins eight other

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Hibernating little brown bat
December 31, 2017

Hibernating little brown bat

little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) with white-nose syndrome hibernating in a Virginia cave during late spring of 2016. Patches of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome can be seen growing out of the skin (white areas) near the nose and across the folded wing skin of this bat.  Spherical drops of water condensation coat the bat's outer fur, a

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Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome
March 2, 2017

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome

Dissected bat guano pellet showing antennae, eyes, and body fragments of midges.
December 31, 2016

Dissected bat guano pellet showing antennae, eyes, and body parts

Dissected guano pellet showing antennae, eyes, and body fragments of midges. 

Examples of Insect fragments belonging to ground beetles, water boatmen, click beetles, weevils, scarabs, and adult antlions.
December 15, 2016

Examples of Insect fragments from bat guano

Examples of Insect fragments belonging to ground beetles, water boatmen, click beetles, weevils, scarabs, and adult antlions identified from various dissected guano pellets of different studies.

Allen's big-eared bat (Idionycteris phyllotis), an insectivore known from the southwestern United States
December 15, 2016

Allen's big-eared bat (Idionycteris phyllotis), an insectivore.

 Allen's big-eared bat (Idionycteris phyllotis), an insectivore known from the southwestern United States.

Bat Colony
October 26, 2016

Bat Colony

While mother bats are out foraging, the young bats huddle together in groups that biologists call a cuddle.

Spotted Bat
October 26, 2016

Spotted Bat

A spotted bat.

December 31, 2014

Bat Thermal Video

Imagery from temperature-sensing cameras showing bats in hibernation. This new footage suggests that bats who warm up from hibernation together throughout the winter may be better at surviving white nose syndrome, a disease caused by a cold-loving fungus ravaging insect-eating bat populations in the United States and Canada. Locations: Gap Cave,125 Cumberland Gap National

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